All deep things are song. It seems somehow the very central essence of us, song; as if all the rest were but wrappages and hulls!
I found so much insight and joy last week from your comments about story.
You captured the galvanizing impact that story has had on people for thousands of years. And you made me think more about all the different kinds of stories that speak to us: memoir, fiction, biography, history.
We all recognize those.
But there’s another kind of story that’s captivating: SONG.
Song can tell a tale like nothing else. A bewitching concoction of story (lyrics) and music (melody). Poetry in motion, urging us to pay attention.
I’m sure you’ve experienced it. You hear a song. Stop what you’re doing. Stillness. A rush of feeling. Perhaps a memory. Maybe even a long forgotten urgency that wants to be remembered.
Or just the opposite: some internal muscle awakens that you didn’t even realize was there. And before you know it there’s a chain reaction of muscles moving and you’re way past the toe-tapping stage. You’re up. Jigging. Twisting. Rocking. Hopping. Tripping the light fantastic.
I happen to believe that song has the capacity to tell us who we are.
Although it may sound a little quirky, I bet you know what I’m talking about. A few (or more) times in your life, along came a song that you were compelled to listen to. Again. And again. Up went the volume, full blast.
You just had to learn the lyrics too. In fact, you couldn’t not learn the lyrics. And if you’re like me, you sang the song. Raised your voice. In your car. The shower. To your lover. Or maybe just for yourself.
These are the songs that possess us.
They hold us tight and won’t let go. Looking back, I realize that those times when I’ve been held tight in the safe arms of a song I was being taught to sing.
Literally and metaphorically.
I was being taught to raise my voice and sing out loud.
I was being taught to raise my voice and claim my deeper story.
My life in song: click to listen to me sing it.
1. Something’s Coming. I was 17. I’d escaped California for a stint at Arizona State. I was living with my dad in an itty-bitty house with a swamp cooler. The upside: the property owners let us swim in their pool, and you could steal away into a broad expanse of desert. That was good, because I needed the space to sing and dance my heart out to this song.
Could be, who knows, there’s something due any day…
If I’d known how to listen then, I’d have realized it was the siren song of the seeker. Telling me I’d always be anticipating that elusive something that was just around the corner. Showing me my curiosity would be both a gift and challenge. And later in life all that seeking would wear me out until I grasped that I needed to turn it inward and find the deeper meaning.
2. Celebrate Me Home. I’ve returned to California and it’s been a few years since my mom died, but I’m still sad. I hear this song on the radio and go out and buy the album immediately (yes, we’re back in the days of vinyl). It comforts me, and I get all warm and cuddly from it. Family, friends, love.
Whenever I find myself too all alone, I can sing me home…
But the deeper message eluded me. Little did I know a few decades later I’d be fascinated by the subject of home, even write about it extensively. The seed was there all along; the song was pointing the way. I just didn’t notice at the time.
3. Corner of the Sky. I’ve taken my leap of faith and landed in a cramped apartment in a Brooklyn brownstone. Dave’s by my side, parceling out subway tokens for the week. There’s a revival of Pippin, and it’s filmed for television. This song captured me like no other. Filled me to bursting. Another seeker song. Enough said.
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free…
Yes, there was more. The earliest inklings that my life’s work was going to be about helping people to define their dreams, and live with satisfaction, zest, and gusto. But I didn’t pick up on that until several years later, when I was living in San Francisco.
4. The Road You Didn’t Take. Somehow the circuitous road that I’ve taken has led me to Madison, Wisconsin. A lovely town, but not my town. I’m in my thirties now and getting awfully close to the existential wall of midlife. Who am I? What am I doing? Why am I here? Just then I discover this song from Follies. It fits my mood perfectly.
One has regrets, which one forgets…
Surprise! The song foretold a deeper tale. It was alerting me that although I was good at cheering people on to lead fulfilling lives, it wouldn’t be quite enough for me. I was being called to dive into the in-between spaces of life. To look at my own regrets. To shine a light on those mysterious places in myself and and others. But again, I didn’t figure this out until much later.
5. Pure Imagination. We’re five years down the road now. I’m back on track. I’ve returned to school. Bought a house. Put down roots in Sacramento. And this song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory gives me a thrill. I do believe I can change the world. Bring it on!
If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it…
Ooops, not so fast. I now realize the song was actually predicting the rebirth of my creativity. But I couldn’t see that I was poised at the entrance of a playground of imagination. And as wonderful as that turned out to be, it was also a cautionary tale too: that the world of imagination was so vast, and at times overwhelming, that I could (and would) get lost in it.
6. Here’s to Life. We’ve made it to present day. I suspect every woman of a certain age wants to sing this song by Phyllis Molinary. Shirley Horn’s version is legendary and I’ve always loved it. But about a year ago I heard Eartha Kitt’s rendition, shortly before she died. And that’s when it put me in a trance. I had to learn it. Give voice to it. In fact I couldn’t stop singing it.
May all your storms be weathered, and all that’s good get better…
You know what? I finally get it. Right now I can tell you the deeper message of this song. It’s a story about how we do the later acts of life differently from the first. And it’s pointing me toward the next chapter: life lived in the moment, the way of joy, making peace with regrets. The song heralds a blossoming of community, love, and connection. A balancing of inner and outer life. Oh, the adventurous seeker still comes out to frolic, but she’s not running the show anymore. She’s found harmony with all the other parts. And if I can be singing this song when I’m in my 80’s, like Eartha Kitt, then it will have been a good run.
So do you see where I’ve been going with all this?
Each time a story grabs us so ferociously, whether it’s a short song or a three-inch thick novel, it speaks to us almost like a dream.
When we’re seized in this way, our job is to translate the images, metaphors, symbols, and patterns. Decipher what they say about who we are and who we’re becoming.
We’re not very practiced at that, though, so we tend to stick with the surface meaning. Even so, most of us have inklings along the way that something deeper is asking to be seen. And if I’d caught on sooner, I might have bypassed a heck of a lot of confusion and uncertainty. But that’s life. Right?
Care to share a song that put you in a trance?
This post was recycled with fresh art for Art Every Day Month 2012
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Wow Patty, what an utterly original blog post, I loved it. I thought I would just check your blog out after you left a comment on mine and what a surprise to find such a refreshing take on blogging and life blogs in general. You also have a great voice.
I am so glad I found this and glad you left a comment on my blog. Thank you for this.
Hi Steven – Welcome! Thank you so much for stopping by. I appreciate your comments a great deal. I know this is out of the ordinary for blogging, so I’m delighted that you find it refreshing rather than oddball. I’m always wondering about that, but I figure, why not? Just go for it. Thanks again.
Patty — Here’s to a wonderful musical journey through your life:~)
I loved everything about this post, but hearing you sing truly brought tears to my eyes. You stepped out on the stage and let your voice light up your words. Thank you for sharing this special part of who you are!
My favorite song was “Here’s to Life!” I liked the way you sang this one and I loved the words.
p.s. I missed the dual serenade with the cat! Also, thanks for the link!
Hi Sara – Thanks! One of the reasons it was a delight to do was because I was thinking of you and your encouragement. That was very generous of you. I’m really glad you liked it, and about “Here’s to Life”: isn’t that quite a song. Wow! It speaks a lifetime in a few minutes.
Patty, music resonates as it is energy as we are energy.
And oh yes, I too have had lyrics express exactly what I felt in such a beautiful way and music move me to connect to an inner place.
Singers are the image speakers, bards were very important people, they were holding an important place as they pedicted life in a way it was and that sang about what could be possible.
Oh Patty what a wonderful place you give our inner songs, music is like stories, connecting to our innate knowing and leaving the interference of the mind behind.
Love Wilma xox.
Oh yeah, Wilma. This is so true: “bards were very important people, they were holding an important place as they pedicted life in a way it was and that sang about what could be possible.” Wouldn’t it be great to go back to those days of strolling minstrels? Well, maybe not back to that time, but back to the flavor of it. Thank you so much for your comments!
hi patty, how are you? I loved this post and i am going to look into your theory about songs describing who we are. I wonder how my love for the bass line in conscious hip hop or stoneleigh(gospel) music would fit the bill. I need to figure this out and I sense an article coming from this.
I could tell you were enjoying yourself in ‘pure imagination.
Hi Ayo – Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think it would be fantastic for you to delve a little into your fascination with that music and see what it may say about you. I’d love to hear what you come up with. And about hip hop: one of my former students (I’m not teaching anymore) was using something similar to this activity with hip hop and at-risk youth. I don’t know all the details, but when I googled “hip hop, counseling” a lot of info came up. So there’s probably some fascinating stuff out there about it.
Oh, Patty, I just knew I was going to love this post when I saw the title. I’m often moved by song and this post does a wonderful way of affirming for me its incredible powers. How wise you are to theorize that songs tell us who we are. It makes perfect sense why some songs for me are timeless and why I have trouble connecting to many contemporary songs these days.
You have a beautiful a capella singing voice. I love all the songs you included. Pure Imagination is a big hit in my house and I’d like to play your version for my son sometime.
The way you concluded this post for me is so moving — it’s like you’re speaking to me personally after numerous coaching sessions with you :-). And that song Here’s to Life. Wow. Thanks for moving me to tears. BTW, I love Eartha Kitt and was thrilled to see her live once.
Aw, Belinda, thank you so much. I take it as a great compliment when people allow me to move them. And I know your husband’s a musician, and you often speak of music, so I figured it might catch your eye. What a joy it must have been to see Eartha Kitt live. I’ve always been a fan too. A few months before she died she did a fascinating interview with Gwen Ifill – maybe you saw it? It was riveting, and at the end of it she sang Here’s to Life, and I was bowled over. Her version is of course totally unique, just like she was.
How very creative! A wonderful way to express yourself. Music is as present as it gets. Thanks!
Thank you, Kaushik. I’m so glad you reminded us of that. When I’m singing, or listening to music, I can be present like at no other time. I’ve read that music, if we allow it to, puts us into a right-brain, flow state. Lovely to remember that!
WOW! What a great voice you have. And the singing blog is an ingenious idea. Well, for you it is. Me? As much as songs bring back memories of different times and I have belted out the words at the top of my voice, I sing so out of tune if I posted them, my subscribers would be dropping like flies. LOL
Thank you Barbara! So nice to have you visiting. And whether or not you would sing on your blog, it’s delightful to hear that you do sing. I can just imagine you belting away. Who cares if it’s out of tune? I’m just such a fan of raising your voice in song as often as possible. I’m even thinking of writing about that for another post.
There’s a song by ABBA that carried me through my move from Belgium to London. It talked about taking risks and trying new things. Then a lot of lullubies when my kids were small. Right now it’s Susan Boyle’s ‘Who I was Born To Be’. Very appropriate for my present journey.
Lovely to read this, Patty. Thanks!
Ah, Maryse, you’ve illustrated exactly what I’m talking about! Thank you so much for sharing that.
Patty — I’m back. You recently visited my site and the post: Picture Story: Picture Play.
I need to clarify something because everyone got confused by the last clue. The place you live in isn’t the object itself, but has the same name. Sorry about the confusion:~(
Oh, okay, I’ll try to put my thinking cap back on for that one, Sara. Thanks for the update!
Yeah, it’s pretty easy to get captivated with songs. It’s also cool how one can tell a story with it within a span of less than five minutes. Thanks for sharing your songs. That girl in the picture looks pretty as well. =)
Hi Ryhen – Absolutely, isn’t it amazing how the power of story in song takes hold in just a few minutes? I like that photo too; it just spoke to me. Thanks so much for your comments!
Holy cow, Patty – WOW! Not only a great voice but superb choice of songs as well! So many of my favs!!!! If I had to pick one song for myself it would have to be Edith Piaf’s “Je nais regret rien” (I have no regrets). I first heard that song at age 17 in French class, Piaf was known as the French Sparrow in her day. While there were times in my life I thought, oh no, here comes a big regret cuz I screwed up so badly, somehow I managed to forgive myself because I KNEW I wanted that as my Life Song – and so far, so good!
Hugs to MY favorite (new) sparrow,
Hi SuZen – Thank you! I absolutely love that Piaf song. Classic. Or should I say classique? Anyway, that being your life song confirms so much about you that I’ve suspected: zest, humor, courage, risk-taking. Wow. But what I didn’t know is that you took French in high school. Me too! Years of it, in fact, starting in third grade. And then some in college. Of course I can barely speak a word now, but someday I want to revive it. And lately I have had a thing for Jacques Brel and some of the 30’s French hot club jazz. So I will just finish up here by saying, Merci Beaucoup!
I bow to you, Oh Great One! You are very brave and I love hearing you sing. I had tears in my eyes with “celebrate me home.” And yes I know what you mean about songs that are meant for us that become our theme songs for the times in our lives.
You are truly amazing and I’m so happy to be part of your blogging community. Sing on…
Aw, Tess, you’re so very kind. But didn’t you say to someone on your blog recently – “Don’t put me on a pedestal because I will fall off.” Me too. I will most certainly fall off, blow it, make mistakes. So let me just say thank you for being a part of this community and bringing your spirit here. Let’s all SING ON…
Dear Patty, WHAT A VOICE!! I love it. You are soooooo talented and brave and just CREATIVE! I love this. I don’t know a lot of songs, some old ones my mom used to sing from musicals. She was a professional singer when she was in her teens and early twenties and had her own radio show in NYCity when she was young and sang on the radio.
But so much of my adult life from 25 to mid/late 30s was spent out of society and in the wild that I lost at least a decade of music. But then when I started to dream music and compose my own songs (can’t read a note of music) and I started to head into a music career I wrote a whole bunch of vocals songs….which I am starting to work on again now, after all this time. I hope to at some point to put some up on my site.
The point to all this is that you have a classic, clear, powerful voice AND what I love about it is that it is BEAUTIFULLY deep. And when I heard it I thought, wow, she has a voice that is deep and sultry, gutsy like mine. AND I always thought my voice wasn’t good enough because it wasn’t higher like so many pop singers. After hearing the STUNNING beauty and depth, robustness of your GORGEOUS voice…it made me totally rethink my own voice. Your voice is so good; you could make a career out of singing. I am just very very impressed and SO grateful you took the time to do this post. It’s a REAL work of art.
I LOVE singing. The songs I’ve written/composed were done for various people in my life. I’ll let you know if I ever get one up on my site. This whole post really inspired me. Very exciting!! Thank you so much. Hugs, Robin
Hi Robin – Thank you so much. I’m thrilled to hear about your own singing. Forget about those pop singers with the high, wafer thin voices. We have such a tradition of gutsy women singers with deep, melodic voices: Ella Fitzgerald, June Christy, Nina Simone, to name a few. Not that I put myself in that category, but we’ve sort of lost something. Thank goodness for Diana Krall. Btw, I once heard her say that people told her she had a crappy voice early on in her career. Ha! She showed them. If only I could play the piano like her. Which is something you can do. So go for it – sing and play and share it with us all! Who knows, maybe we’ll do a duet one day??? Take care and hugs, Patty
PS: This post inspired me so much I just had to tell that I spent a half hour play the piano and singing…when I was supposed to be work on a post. LOL!! 🙂 I JUST could NOT help myself. Thank you for the inspiration! I love it. Hugs, R. 🙂 🙂
Love it! I’m so glad you sat down and sang!
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Thanks so much Patty! I found this blog and this post tonight and it was so healing to witness sharing your journey through song! I am trying to find my heart –life song lately and so this is so serendipitous to be here! I almost cried it was perfect and is helping to bring out more of my spirit 😉 big hugs, Sharmila
Hi Sharmila – Thank you! I’m so glad for your visit and that we had a moment of serendipity together. I love that!
I am at the computer this morning as my daughter is with her dad and I wanted to return to your Wishing Year post… and I found this instead and wow. I want to spend more time looking at it and the songs of my own life but…
My Freshman year in college (Go UA Wilcats I might add!) the song was Fast Car… I return to it every now and again but not as often as in the past. When I lived in Prague, I found Rachmaninoff… I am not sure how that fits into this idea? While living in Dublin, Ireland it was Only a Woman’s Heart. Summer camps found me Homeward Bound and Feeling Groovy. Last summer I saw The Color Purple on stage and fell in love with “The Color Purple” song with the line “I am Here” resounding through my head and heart. I had to take my daughter, buy the album etc… and she has memorized the song. Despite our never talking about it, the song has become something we share and probably marks something about our relationship and our year. And when I had my daughter – it was Vivo per Lei… and a song from Tarzan
And then there are the songs that are constant – that emerge now and again… and now that I try and remember them, they are hiding in the folds of my mind. But there are songs that come from no where and find their way into the song of my day. Often, these days, they are about the sun… “here comes the sun…”
Thank you Patty for more fun and enlightening things to consider.
Hey, thanks for revisiting this post and sharing your own life in song. I love it that you’ve started to explore it.
“My Turn…” That is a song that I sing now and again. So much of my life I focus on others to the point that my subconscioussteps in sometimes and reminds me that it is my turn.
Absolutely! Isn’t it amazing how our unconscious gives us those messages? I’m fascinated by this.
Could it be? yes it could – somethings coming, something good… could be tonight…. (at least those are the lyrics I sing in my head) from “West Side Story” and the song “Tonight”. Considering I haven’t heard it sung in several decades, I think it is time I listen again! :~)
I also love to sing. Sometimes toning brings me right back to the truth that lies at the heart of story.
Blessings on this Tuesday!